- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 19, 2000

'Responsible' Fujimori

The Organization of American States is praising the "responsible" action by Peruvian President Alberto Fujimori, who, facing a major scandal four months into his third term, called new elections and promised to step down.

The OAS, which created a "high-level mission" to monitor democracy in Peru, said Mr. Fujimori's decision placed the interests of the Peruvian people above his own political ambitions.

Mr. Fujimori has been under international pressure from critics who call him authoritarian and remain suspicious about the May election, in which his only opponent dropped out.

Mr. Fujimori announced his surprise move Saturday evening after the release of a videotape that appears to show Vladimiro Montesinos, the head of Peru's intelligence service and Mr. Fujimori's closest aide, trying to bribe an opposition politician into backing the president. The spy chief was arrested yesterday.

"The [OAS] mission would like … to note the responsible position taken by President Fujimori, who has judged that continuing as head of state could mean uncertainties and represent an obstacle for the normal development of the democratic process. He has thus placed the interests of the country above any personal considerations," the OAS said in a statement.

The OAS also praised the restraint shown by the political opposition, "who have used constructive and moderate language in the current political situation, which has also contributed to the calm, peaceful atmosphere in the country."

The OAS formed its mission, headed by Canadian Foreign Minister Lloyd Axworthy and Secretary-General Cesar Gaviria, to encourage Peru to enact democratic and legal reforms.

"These proposed reforms have opened the way for a fertile dialogue that will ensure that the country can progress toward national consensus that will ensure the strengthening of the rule of law and the enforcement of the constitution and ensure a climate of understanding that is essential at this difficult time when the country undergoes a transition to new elections," the OAS said.

"This process is primarily in the hands of the Peruvian people themselves and all their social and political forces."

Zedillo's final words

Mexican Ambassador Jesus Reyes Heroles believes his country is "politically stable, economically sound" and in good condition for the unprecedented change of government in December.

The final state of the union speech by outgoing President Ernesto Zedillo earlier this month "was truly historic," the ambassador said.

Mr. Zedillo, of the Institutional Revolutionary Party, which has controlled Mexican politics for 71 years, will turn over power to President-elect Vicente Fox of the National Action Party.

"President Zedillo emphasized three major accomplishments of his administration: the transition to a full democracy; the revitalization of the Mexican economy; and the focus on social spending to benefit the very poorest of Mexico's citizens," Mr. Reyes Heroles told Embassy Row.

"It is widely recognized that Mexico has changed dramatically over the past six years. The 1995 economic crisis, one of the worst in the nation's history, is behind us. Growth has averaged 5 percent over this period and inflation rates are now in the single digits."

Mr. Reyes Heroles noted that the presidential and congressional elections this year "fundamentally transformed" Mexican politics. In addition to the change in the presidency, no party dominates Congress.

He praised Mr. Zedillo for his concern for impoverished Mexicans.

"Through all of the enormous changes since 1994, the president's focus on the poor has never wavered. Public spending in real and nominal terms has increased in areas such as education, child nutrition and health," the ambassador said.

He added, "On Dec. 1, [Mr.] Fox will assume the office of the presidency and a new era of Mexican political life will begin… .

"President Zedillo will turn over to his successor a nation that is politically stable and economically sound."

The democratic transition will also benefit U.S.-Mexican relations.

"Our futures are intertwined," the ambassador said, "and stronger partners make stronger partnerships."

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